Airtight fumigation to finish off hardened pests in coaches

A specially designed fumigation chamber to eradicate pests and rodents in railway coaches has yielded the desired results.

Built at the coach maintenance yard in Basin Bridge Junction here, the chamber can accommodate three compartments at a time. When doors of a coach fumigated and quarantined for 24 hours were opened on Tuesday, hundreds of dead cockroaches and some rats lay scattered all over.

The concept was evolved following frequent complaints from passengers on pests and rodents in air-conditioned coaches. Though pesticides were sprayed at regular intervals, the menace remained much to the agony of travelling public and maintenance staff.

Chief Mechanical Engineer S.K. Sood and his team used a tiny camera attached to a flexible tube, similar to that of an endoscope, to check hollow spaces and minute openings in the coach bays.

“We found a large number of cockroaches living in those tiny gaps. They were apparently immune to the periodic pesticide spray. It was decided to pump methyl bromide in an airtight environment and that was how the idea of a fumigation chamber evolved,” Mr. Sood said.

Designed by Senior Divisional Mechanical Engineer P. Balasundar, the transparent glass chamber was built at a cost of Rs. 4 lakh. To start with, First Class air-conditioned coaches and pantry cars would be taken up for fumigation along with the coaches that faced specific complaints of pest or rodent menace from passengers.

After 24-hour fumigation, the coaches are subjected to a 12-hour intensive cleaning exercise before being attached to rakes for operation.

“Once a coach is fumigated in this chamber, it is expected to remain free from pests/rodents for at least nine months. Using methyl bromide is an expensive alternative though inevitable. This is the only way we can reach the pests living in minute and inaccessible gaps,” he said.

Proposing to establish the airtight fumigation chambers in all the 16 coach maintenance depots of the Southern Railway, Southern Railway Mazdoor Union general secretary N. Kannaiah said the matter was taken up with the Railway Board for consideration. “Each time there is a complaint of pests or rats on coaches, the image of the railways takes a beating. The fumigation chamber is the first of its kind in the Indian Railways and worth emulating in other zones. Since the process involves use of chemical gas, we have urged the railways to provide masks, gloves and special apron to the workers,” he said.

At the instance of the SRMU, the Southern Railway decided to introduce on-board garbage collection bag on trains with effect from December 1.

“Pests/rodents live on food spilt by passengers in coaches. If some discipline can be brought about among public while handling food, we can prevent this inconvenience to a large extent. Passengers should drop wastes in the garbage collection bag that would be fixed on either end of the coaches and emptied at major stations,” Mr. Kannaiah added.


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